submitted by: Chrystal Turner

A pioneer story about my great-great great grandfather, John Watkins- This is a first hand account of the Martin Handcart Company, which was rescued by a group of men from Salt Lake City. Elizabeth Robinson was a member of the handcart company. Gibson Condie, her future husband, was a member of the rescue party which this account references.
On the 4th of May 1856, he left on the good sail ship Horizon, which was bound for Boston. After nearly 5 weeks they landed. They then went by rail to Iowa. They were delayed four or five weeks at an Iowa camp which made them so late in starting that threw them into snow and cold of winter. They were in the Edward Martin Company.
While traveling through the state of Iowa with six hundred immigrants with handcarts, the dust of harvest weather was four or five inches deep. The sun rays poured down on their heads, the perspiration and dust streamed down their faces and got into their throats choking them so they could hardly breathe. They were tantalized by the people coming out of their houses saying, “That is a d*** hard way to serve the Lord.”
Their rations were 1 pound of flour for adults and half rations for children. The roads were very heavy and progress was slow, much slower than had been calculated. Consequently when they got out on the prairie their food ran short so their rations were cut down by half and finally to 4 ounces a day for adults. The immigrants became very weak and cold weather approaching they became frightened and held a council meeting. They had to lighten their loads so everything that could be got along without was thrown in a heap and burned. Seventeen pounds were allowed to each cart. Everything that human ingenuity could devise was tried to save the lives of the people.The night after they crossed the Platte River the snow started to fall and winter set in. the hunger and cold were so intense that we stopped a day or two to camp. Before we moved camp 14 people were buried in one grave.
A company was sent out to meet the immigrants and when they finally arrived they had given most of the food away to other companies on the road so they only had a very little food for the cold and hungry people. It was claimed that 300 died on that (failed?) pilgrimage of the Martin Company. It was a sad chapter in Church History.
While sufferings of the belated companies were not over, much cold weather was still to be encountered. And although death and suffering still stalked in their midst, they traveled their weary way arriving in Salt Lake City on Sunday, November 30th.
A monument to these handcart pioneers was erected on Temple Square in 1856-1860.
Also a monument in Wyoming near Lyman was erected to honor 14 of their members who were buried in one grave. Grandfather Watkins helped to bury these people.